In an interview with Variety, Chris Dodd said the fears of Google and other internet companies about a major anti-piracy bill now moving through Congress are "exaggerated hyperbole." While even one of the original developers of the internet says the Stop Online Piracy Act could interfere with the functioning of the web and open the door to radical new forms of censorship, Dodd says to look to China.
Dodd, who assumed his post in March, notes that the idea of blocking sites is by no means unprecedented. Other supporters of the legislation note Internet providers already block criminal content like child pornography. Citing a more controversial practice, Dodd notes "When the Chinese told Google that they had to block sites or they couldn't do [business] in their country, they managed to figure out how to block sites."
He suggests that companies opposing the legislation may view it differently if they were confronted with the rampant piracy facing Hollywood.
Google "recently bought Motorola, with 700 patents," Dodd says. "If you can find patents on the Internet, maybe you ought to be able to steal it. Copyright is a limited right, patent is an unlimited right. But maybe people ought to have access to those patents. Maybe that ought to happen."
(When you're a senator, you have staff to remind you not to make comparisons like that one. Maybe someone at MPAA should embrace that duty?)
Dodd's comments seem unlikely to shake the resolve of those who think SOPA is a dangerously broad piece of legislation. The bill would attempt to thwart the trafficking of online contraband, like pirated movies and unauthorized sales of weapons and other technology, by blocking U.S. internet users from domain names deemed invalid.
Opponents in Congress have come up with an alternative, the OPEN act, which strengthens the existing framework of laws and doesn't enter tender Constitutional territory. But they have found SOPA supporters resistant to changing their minds.
But a wave of warning has been growing for months in the tech community, especially those who believe SOPA could interfere with the basic functioning of web pages and user interface. And among the institutions criticizing the proposed law is Sandia National Laboratories, which is funded by the federal Department of Energy and believes the law would "negatively impact U.S. and global cybersecurity and Internet functionality."
But it would show China we're up to snuff in the Shutting Off the Internet contest. Chris Dodd says so.
Now, for a fun explanation of SOPA, Stephen Colbert.